Most of the reporting on this is terrible, sourced from tweets and suchlike. Here’s a good article on what went down, why it was probably inevitable, and what the ramifications are for the Australian music business.
1. Past iterations of Soundwave actually had good lineups, but this one didn’t.
This year, you got to pay $170 to listen to various washed up British hardcore bands, even more washed up American nu metal bands, plus Frenzal Rhomb. They’re a huge draw, I guess…?
AJ Maddah claims on Twitter that he nearly wrangled a RATM reunion, and that would have been something. Like a lot of his management, it seems SW16’s success depended on all the stars aligning.
Look, if only mediocre bands want to play your festival, that’s fine – but you have to adjust the ticket price downwards. SW16’s ticket sales sucked because the bill just wasn’t worth it. Nobody wants to pay $170 to see Disturbed. They are not headliner material for a show of this magnitude.
Going over to Europe, you can see Manowar screw up their own effort at a festival with the same mistake. Magic Circle Festival 2007 cost €10. Everyone and their evil twin attended. Magic Circle Festival 2008 cost €80, but they had a great lineup and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Manowar play their first six albums back to back (the show lasted over three continuous hours). Magic Circle Festivals 2009 and 2010 had nothing special going for it, no good bands except Manowar…and it cost €75. The value had gone, but the price stayed the same.
There was no Magic Circle Festival 2011.
2. Maddah’s doing the same thing everyone does.
That is, robbing Peter to pay Paul and trying to cover old debts with a slew of fresh debts. This isn’t uncommon in finance. Lots of successful companies work this way. Just keep ballooning upwards on an ever-increasing pile of debt, and you’ll look like you’re a rising star. The trouble is, eventually things contract, and then you’re not able to pay people.
Read the article, especially the part about various contractors and freelancers persuing unpaid debts related to SW and Maddah. These are guys who had gotten burned and were consequently pretty unwilling to extend credit to SW, thus putting a spoke in his wheel. While SW was looking like a success from the outside, the foundation was already crumbling.
And then there’s the unpaid talent. That’s really bad. These bands all talk to each other, you know? It’s hinted between the lines that Maddah had trouble wrangling with acts like Bring Me the Horizon because they knew his habit of writing rubber cheques.
And these were the bands Maddah counted on to recoup the losses of 2014 and 2015, keeping the next stage of the game going.
3. We should put some R&D money into more bands like Compressorhead.
Seriously, no more flakey musicians and drug overdoses and reunions that fall through. Although, like RATM, they seem to be having singer problems.